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Staying the Course

Local elementary schools focus on maintaining character education and environmental education in the coming school year.

These days, there is a major focus on protecting the environment, and Spring Hill Elementary School is hopping on the bandwagon with enthusiasm.

“Based on the [Fairfax County] School Board’s new goals, we’re looking to green the school up,” said Roger Vanderhye, principal at Spring Hill for the past four and a half years. “We’re looking at a lot of innovative, different things that will show children that the environment where we live is our future, and we’ve got to be stewards.”

Vanderhye said Spring Hill staff, parents and students will all be working together in the coming year to brainstorm fun and exciting ways to incorporate environmental lessons into the classroom. One such project is already under way, and was started by the members of the Spring Hill Elementary School Naturalists Club last February. For several years, the Naturalists Club members focused on creating an area in the school that would earn Spring Hill the honor of being a certified Natural Wildlife Habitat. Last year, Naturalist Club leader Alison Bauer, a teacher at Spring Hill, assigned her club members to a new task — clearing out an overgrown storm water runoff plot located just behind the school. This year, the project will continue to be a major focus, and the space will eventually be used as an outdoor classroom.

Vanderhye said the school is also looking into recycling its used French fry oil into fuel for their diesel buses.

“We heard about a couple of other schools that are doing that, so we’re looking into it as well,” he said. “We want the children to learn about conservation by coming up with ideas on how to make it happen.”

Vanderhye has a new assistant principal this year, as long-time assistant principal Shirley Long retired at the end of this past school year. Richard Tritle, a sixth grade teacher at Spring Hill for the past 24 years, will take over the position.

“I’m really looking forward to the new experiences and new challenges,” said Tritle. “It’s going to be great to be able to work with the children and the staff on a different level, but while still maintaining my joy of working with the kids. I love trying new things, and I enjoy challenges.”

Vanderhye is also excited to have Tritle on board.

“Rick is loved by all,” he said.

Spring Hill will also add the fifth grade to its school-based Gifted and Talented (GT) Center, bringing it one step closer to becoming a full-service center.

“We have about 110 children in grades three, four and five, and next year we’ll add the sixth grade,” said Vanderhye.

Vanderhye is also proud of the fact that Spring Hill students are the only students in the area who had the opportunity to meet their teachers and fellow classmates for the 2007-08 school year before the summer started.

“We arranged for them all to meet in their classrooms on the last day of school because it just makes the first few days of school really pleasant,” said Vanderhye.

Spring Hill’s enrollment for the coming school year is estimated to be 850. A Welcome night for new families will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 29 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the school. Back to School night for kindergarten through sixth grade will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.

COLVIN RUN Elementary School is looking forward to celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and according to principal Sandra Furick, the parents and teachers are already organizing various special events and activities to commemorate the occasion.

“The staff has been working on a construction theme,” said Furick. “We’re talking about reconnecting with our past, and thinking about how we’ve measured up, so we’re building an elevator shaft to the future. We’re preparing these children for a future that we don’t even know what it will be – so the basics are important, but the other things like design, music and art are also important.”

Furick has been principal at Colvin Run Elementary since it was first opened, and said she is thrilled with everything about the school.

“We started out focusing on character education, and none of those things have changed — we’ve pretty much stayed the course,” she said.

Assistant principal Suzi Powell started at Colvin Run in 2006 and said she truly enjoyed her first year there.

“It was fabulous,” said Powell. “The community, the staff, the students — they are all just wonderful people to work with.”

Furick noted that the school was extremely pleased to have its custodial staff nominated the “Custodial Staff of the Year” for Cluster I and II schools.

“They are just amazing,” said Furick. “Last year, our sixth graders had community service in the building and they all wanted to work with our custodian Mr. Wei because they love him so much.”

Colvin Run’s projected enrollment for the 2007-08 school year is 850 students. Back to School night for kindergarten through the third grade will be held on Monday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. Back to School night for grades four through six will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.